In the calendar of nature-worshippers, Imbolc is the first of the spring festivals. Its proper date is February 2nd although many people will celebrate it on Saturday January 31st, as that is the closest weekend. Even though the weather is still cold, the nights still long, every day it seems the evenings are lengthening. Hope is returning with all the crocuses and snowdrops breaking the hard soil, and the new year is really getting under way.
‘Imbolc’ means ‘in the belly, for deep in the ‘belly’ if the earth, life is stirring. In ancient times this was a big cause for celebration. In days when people depended closely on the land, seeing proof that nature wasn’t going to let them down was encouraging. Even today, when we are distanced from growing crops and looking after animals, our instincts still respond to the distant call of summer.
Imbolc, like all of the traditional festivals, has a fertility theme. It has the other name of ‘Oimelc’, meaning ‘ewe’s milk’ and in some places lambs are now born, needing to be rescued from the snow. Chickens start to lay now, or, if they are housed in barns, they produce more eggs. If the winter has been hard, the ice melts in the extra hours of sunlight, and it’s as if the milk of the earth is flowing.
Imbolc coincides with the Christian Candlemas, or the Purification of the Blessed Virgin. It has a theme of cleansing, renewing, creating, and bringing back the light and the bright. It is also a very feminine festival. Candles burn brightly, celebrating the return of spring and the promise that life is ever-renewing.
Pagans worship the Goddess in a variety of forms and at Imbolc the Celtic Goddess Bride (pronounced Breed) is honoured. She was goddess of childbirth, smithcraft, poetry, creativity and healing. She was Christianised as St Bridget and a sacred flame was kept burning in her shrine at Kildare. As a fire goddess and also goddess of the hearth, she brings comfort and inspiration. Imbolc is sometimes called the ‘Feast of the Poets’ and it’s a good time of year to explore and develop any talents you have.
This falls a week before Imbolc, celebrating the work of the Scottish poet Robbie Burns. This is a night of reciting verse and telling stories. The famous haggis is eaten, made from stuffed sheep’s stomach and a special soup made from sheep’s head, called ‘Powsowdie’ is served. There are lots of ‘sheep’ themes at Imbolc, some of them nicer than others!
There are lots of things you can do to cheer yourself up now, and to remind yourself that good things lie ahead. Throw yourself into the Imbolc spirit and have fun.
• Have a sort out at home and take a lavender joss stick into each room, to bring peace and clarity.
• Light candles throughout your home – the best colour candle for Imbolc is white, for purity.
• Sit quietly with your notepad and think of a few creative projects that you would like to get going. Do this by the light of three white candles. When you have written all you can think of, reflect for a while. Which of these ideas are most likely to get off the ground? Be realistic and play to your strengths. Pick three to concentrate on – no more. It will be best if you choose only one major one, with a couple of minor schemes as a back-up. Make a commitment to light your candles once each week and review your progress.
• Make New Year’s Resolutions! Okay, so the year is already one month old, but now is a much better time to make fresh starts. All the Christmas excesses are out of the way, the last chocolate has been eaten, and all that’s left of mince pies and plum pudding may be an extra centimetre on your waist! The January doldrums are behind you, and spring is close enough to be inspiring. Research shows that although the majority of resolutions don’t last long, people who make them are far more likely to improve their lives – so have a go!
• Get out and about. Visit local wells and streams, to draw close to the bounty of the earth. The old custom of well-dressing has been revived lately and people often tie ribbons or scraps of cloth on trees close to wells, to ask for healing – for instance at St Ea’s Well, in Cornwall. If you’ve been feeling poorly or down, hold a green ribbon between your palms as you ask the goddess to make you better. Then tie this to a bush or tree close to the well you’ve chosen. Always be careful not to pollute the site.
Celebrating seasonal festivals can be uplifting, but you may feel you need more of a boost. At The Circle we have what you need. Monthly horoscopes are there for you. Get free horoscopes and psychic insight at The Circle. If you want to know more about yourself and your year ahead, call one of our expert readers without delay.
PUBLISHED: 2 February 2015